Takeaways from the first Falcons-Dolphins joint practice

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Today was the first of two days the Falcons and Dolphins will have joint practices before the teams’ matchup in their second preseason game on Saturday. After an abysmal performance by the offense against the Titans, the staff will be eager to get a better assessment of the group in these practices and the game. However, the defense put plenty on tape for the front office and coaching staff to thoroughly assess their performance. The first joint practice revealed quite a bit — some good, some bad. Here are my positive thoughts based on reports from those who were in attendance.

Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley will be one of the best one-two punches in the league

Most people would consider Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage to be an average receiving core, at best. Those people should reconsider; Kyle Pitts could see just as many targets as Ridley, while Gage will be closer to Hayden Hurst‘s number of targets. In the first play below, Pitts beats one of the best cover safeties in the league — Eric Rowe.

Omar Kelly, who covers the Dolphins for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, did report that Rowe got the best of the rookie phenom through the entirety of the first practice, but Pitts beating one of the best in the business this easily is encouraging. The other part of the tandem is Ridley, who completely toasted one of the best press-man cover corner in the league — Xavien Howard.


Howard freezes as Ridley jabs, gets the All-Pro corner to open his hips with a hesitation move, and then bursts to green grass. This was excellent execution by one of the best in the business. If this offensive line can give Matt Ryan enough time, Pitts and Ridley will give opposing defensive coordinators headaches deciding who to double team.

Falcons pass rush could be a pleasant surprise

I want to preface this section by saying the Dolphins offensive line will probably be worse than the Falcons and a bottom-five unit in the league. Still, the Falcons were in Tua’s face all day long, consistently beating the first-team unit. Kelly points out the Falcons defensive front likely had double-digit sacks before the practice even ended.

This Falcons defensive front will be a key part of the overall defensive success, and though it is just a joint practice, this is extremely encouraging. Grady Jarrett dominating isn’t anything new as he’s easily a top-five player at his position. Dante Fowler was also reported to be beating Miami’s tackles, which also shouldn’t shock fans. When healthy, Fowler is still the team’s best pure pass rusher.

The group’s surprise is rookie Ade Ogundeji from Notre Dame, who has consistently shown up using his length, resulting in reps with the first-team defense. With Dean Pees dialing up exotic looks, this pass rush could be better than once expected.

The new regime demands a different level of intensity

The culture shift in Atlanta is evident in so many different ways. Beginning with the trade of Julio Jones, the new regime clearly didn’t want a player that didn’t want to be there. Then in the draft, Terry Fontenot selected high-character individuals that he could trust both on and off the field. Then in free agency, almost every addition was an established and reliable veteran. Then on the team’s depth chart, all the rookies were placed at the bottom of their respective positions regardless of where they were drafted. Now, it is clear the coaching staff is demanding intensity in joint practices.

As Kelly points out, the Falcons weren’t there to be friendly. In the Titans preseason game, we saw the pads popping, but it is great to see the intensity could’ve even been kicked up a notch.

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